Icon aircraft party 5_14_14

Onlookers check out the Icon A5 sport plane inside a warehouse near the Nut Tree Airport in Vacaville. The company held a media event Wednesday, where they announced they will move to Vacaville. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Sport aircraft company relocating to Vacaville

By From page A1 | May 15, 2014

VACAVILLE — It was love at first sight for many on Wednesday.

They touched. They circled. They looked underneath, on top and marveled at the beauty.

“Talk about a cutie,” Solano County Supervisor John Vasquez said.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, caressed the carbon fiber outside and said, “Doesn’t it make you want to say, ‘Can I buy one, Patti?’ ”

The object of everyone’s affections was the new lightweight, compact amphibious sport plane, the Icon A5. The fact that the up-and-coming startup company chose Vacaville as its permanent place to land and begin full-scale production had an enthusiastic crowd of supporters – including state, county and city officials – on their feet with ovations a few times during the hourlong presentation to formally announce the company’s arrival in Vacaville.

Icon Aircraft has leased a 137,940-square-foot building on Beechcraft Road, adjacent to the Nut Tree Airport. The company, which already has more than 1,000 preorders on the $139,000 plane, is looking to roll out its first A5 from the Vacaville warehouse in early 2015.

Icon CEO Kirk Hawkins said the Icon A5 is designed to create an emotional feeling and “reinvent flying,” changing the face of personal aviation by making it more accessible. The airplane’s classification allows pilots to fly it with a sport pilot license that requires about two weeks of training, he said. That training will be supplied at the Icon location to those who purchase an A5.

The two-seater sport plane with foldable wings can land on both water and solid ground and is designed for speeds of 120 mph and a range of up to 300 miles. It burns both auto and aviation fuel.

“I call it human bladder duration,” Hawkins said, joking, about the fuel mileage distance.

It’s been a long time coming. The city began the flirting and wooing process more than three years ago. During that time, Hawkins, a former Air Force pilot, said the company took its location search all over the country, with sites in Texas, Arizona and California the final contenders.

The move will allow the company, which started in 2006 in the Silicon Valley and is currently located in Southern California, to locate its entire production – manufacturing, sales, training, service and corporate headquarters – at one location.

Hawkins said that despite the reputation of California being unfriendly to businesses, Vacaville “made us feel wanted.”

“This community went above and beyond,” he said. He cited the nearby locations of “world-class destinations,” the terrain, nearby lakes, the year-round flying weather and the area’s talent pool as reasons why the company chose Vacaville.

The positive economic impact to the area will be a boon to the city, the county and Solano Community College, which has also been a cornerstone in the efforts to bring the airplane company to Vacaville. A partnership between Icon and the college looks to possible internships, job opportunities for graduates and the creation of specific educational vocational classes and programs for Icon employees.

The company is estimating the creation of 500 local jobs, Hawkins said, with an all-told economic impact estimated to eventually exceed $350 million, citing revenue-generating activities such as local wages paid, local purchases made by Icon, increases in visitor and employee spending, plus sales and property tax revenue.

“This is truly a great day – there is not an appropriate adjective to describe this,” Vacaville Mayor Steve Hardy said.

Reach Susan Winlow at 427-6955 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/swinlowdr.


Discussion | 13 comments

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  • Rich GiddensMay 14, 2014 - 7:23 pm

    Congratulations Solano County. You should now try to woo all of Silicon Valley out of Santa Clara County with your lower taxes and lower real estate prices for their industries and workers. In the meantime, let's fire up the Autoclaves and the assembly line----there's high tech airplanes to be built!

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  • CD BrooksMay 15, 2014 - 7:21 am

    This is a cool story and good for the city. Having said that, "1000 preorders?" We have st*pid behind the wheel now we're going to have them behind controls? Flying airplanes? Crowding the skies above us? YIKES!

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  • Rich GiddensMay 15, 2014 - 9:10 am

    Caption the photo of Suzanne Bragdon drooling over the prototype.. ''which end of this thing goes into the air first?" or ''how much tax money will my city get out of this deal to waste on thug cops and other public employees?"

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  • MadelineMay 15, 2014 - 10:19 am

    CD l hear ya! Great for the economy. Yet I have to wonder how texting will be controlled because there is always that special person who is above the law, only now... he/she will be literally... ooo tiny air marshall mobiles... Move over to the side of that cloud!

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  • Rich GiddensMay 15, 2014 - 10:27 am

    I guess this makes up for the 400 lost jobs next door at Alza Pharmaceutical. Net gain in jobs? A big fat California ZERO.

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  • JBDragonMay 15, 2014 - 1:25 pm

    Great for Vacaville. A few new jobs will help a few. It won't put a dent in jobs lost. I must assume there's lots of tax breaks and subsidies to get them here. My prediction, gone in 5 years, bankrupt. Who can afford these things but the so called evil 1%'ers!!! I say good luck and hope it works out, but it think it'll be a losing battle. Is union workers building these thing? If so, for sure they'll drive the business right into the ground wanting more and more like a parasite. Not a smart one either. Drain the host dry.

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  • Mayor SanchezMay 15, 2014 - 1:34 pm

    It's a bit scary that anyone with lots of money can get one of those sports planes, take a two week course to fly, then take off at 120 miles per hour. I hope there are some regulatory guidelines. I'm happy for Vacaville. The plane on display was impressive. The short video clip was great.

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  • Rich GiddensMay 15, 2014 - 3:56 pm

    Agreed, Mister Mayor---it would indeed be analogous to your thug cops graduating from POST, issued a weapon and a badge and then assaulting one of your constituents in front of NBC Channel 3 KCRA TV cameras with hundreds of thousands in the viewing area ( to include state and local politicians) witnessing your thug cop's criminal acts. Very troubling indeed---perhaps for your city's reputation.

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  • JagMay 15, 2014 - 2:58 pm

    ConGrats Vacaville AGAIN do you hear that Fairfield I said Vacaville, just wait until a few of those air cars pass into Travis air space,, maybe they will launch fighters jets…

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  • Mr. PracticalMay 15, 2014 - 5:36 pm

    Jag, drive down Cordelia Road.

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  • JagMay 15, 2014 - 11:12 pm

    Yep a bunch of $8 to $10 an hour jobs except for Bud but you better know someone to get in their, I used to work and the big purple building when it was Breuner`s making $18 an hour but that was 20 years ago

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  • Rich GiddensMay 15, 2014 - 7:00 pm

    General aviation aircraft do routinely wander into Travis terminal control area. Their pilots are usually sloppy, inattentive and inexperienced. They usually get a call from Oakland Center to remind them that they should be at or above 3,000 feet if they pass over Travis TCA boundaries.

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  • Rich GiddensMay 15, 2014 - 7:36 pm

    Sriracha Hot Sauce CEO Calls California ''Communist Nation''--- People love Sriracha hot sauce, but the CEO of Huy Fong Foods does not love California’s officials. He even compares the state to the the communist nation he fled decades ago. “Today, I feel almost the same,” David Tran told NPR on May 12, referring to when he fled communist Vietnam 35 years ago. “Even now, we live in [the] USA, and my feeling, the government, not a big difference.”

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